Morris A. Barr: Valley Forge Springs and bottling works, “Shady Nook,” his “Treasure Farm,” Frank Caughrey

23_image01The entrance wall at “Valley Forge Springs”, shown in the picture with last weeks’ column, looks just as it did some 20 years ago, after Morris Abner Barr had completed it. To those who have been following the extraordinary story of this “Treasure Farm” during the past few weeks, it might be interesting to drive along the road that leads west from Valley Forge to Phoenixville on some of the pleasant summer days ahead.

Just past the small Valley Forge Post Office building, a road turns off to the left from the main road to Phoenixville. The entrance to the Springs comes into view almost immediately. Here Frank Caughrey, Mr. Barr’s successor, still maintains the bottling works, although the main office of this still large and prosperous business is now in Norristown.

23_image02For more than ten years before he actually began work on his entrance wall, Mr. Barr collected stones from his property with which to build it. The design was entirely Mr. Barr’s own, while the work was done with the help of only one laborer, who supplied the mortar and assisted with the setting of the stones.

It was not an easy job, as many of the stones were large heavy ones. Besides, Mr. Barr could not work on the construction of the wall continuously, but rather “built a little each day between loading water.”

Many watched the progress of its building, and many more came to admire it after it was completed. Among the latter was an expert Italian stone mason who specialized in this type of work. He offered Mr. Barr a steady position “to do nothing but build family entrance walls” – an offer that the latter could not accept.

23_image03The first picture illustrating today’s column shows Mr. Barr hunting gems in the spot he had named “Shady Nook.” His great spirit of hospitality prompted him to put up long picnic tables and benches in this general vicinity for the hordes of visitors who assembled here after the story of his finds found its way into print.

A number of pictures in Mr. Barr’s present collection show interested groups standing by a line-up of now out-dated automobiles, or seated at picnic tables in the vicinity. References have already been made in these articles to the great variety of precious and semi-precious stones found on the premises, especially in this “Shady Nook” vicinity. A new listing, which your columnist had not seen before, enumerates some 26 different specimens.

The second picture in today’s article shows parts of the interior of the much enlarged first small cottage built by Mr. Barr. The fireplace is more of his handiwork, the stones being found while he was excavating for the original cottage. It is in the center of one of the outside walls of a very large room, which has been used for various assembly purposes, including a meeting place for a nearby Scout Troop.

Mr. Barr is shown as he stands before the fireplace, which is flanked by cabinets on either side. These hold specimens of rocks and jewels found on the land as well as various Indian relics unearthed in excavating. The present owner of the property was very hospitable in showing Miss Helen Lienhardt and your columnist this interesting room on the day we visited “Treasure Farm.”

The third picture in today’s collection shows Mr. Barr seated at his desk, with the typewriter so necessary to carry on the voluminous correspondence which became his as soon as the news of his discoveries of mineral water, rocks and precious stones became known. Spread out at his left are a number of pieces of jewelery sent from a manufacturer for Mr. Barr’s approval. Included in the lot are rings, pins and necklaces, set with some of the precious and semi-precious stones found in the “Treasure Farm.”

(To be Continued)